The Prince Albert Raiders had their first chance to play in front of fans at the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns, and players weren’t taking the opportunity for granted.
After playing in the fan-free Regina-bubble last year, the Raiders were grateful to see some fans in the stands, and eager to see even more when the regular season starts in October.
“It’s good to be back, especially in PA,” Team White forward Evan Herman said afterwards. “Last year in the bubble, it was a lot of fun. There was lots of development, and we got tighter as a group there, but being back in PA and getting to see the billets and the fans again is second to none.”
An small but enthusiastic crowd greeted the 40 players who took part in Saturday’s contest. The admission cost was a minimum $2 donation to the Raiders Education Fund.
The players responded with a lively contest that ended with a 4-3 victory for Team Green in a 10-round shoot-out.
“It’s awesome,” Team Green forward Eric Pearce said when asked about being back in front of fans. “It means something. It’s nice to go out there and play a game for something.”
“I’m excited to be back,” Herman added. “I know the boys are all just as excited as me to be back, and eager to get started.
The club has home-and-home exhibition games lined up with the Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades before the season starts. Both Herman and Pearce, one of three 2001 born players on the club, say they’re confident the team has a strong foundation to build on.
“We had a lot of young guys come in,” Herman said. “They got up to speed pretty quick. They weren’t afraid to ask questions. There’s a lot of talent out there, for sure.”
“Camp has been good,” Pearce added. “Everyone’s been competing hard, hitting and making plays. It’s tough to see in camp, but when we get to the exhibition games, we’ll see how the team comes together and stuff, but I think it’s looking pretty good so far.”
The Raiders open their exhibition schedule at home against the Regine Pats at the Art Hauser Centre on Sept. 17. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
Team Green 4 Team White 3 (SO)
Tyson Laventure scored with just over a minute left to force overtime, and Adam McNutt scored in the 10th round of the shootout as Team Green came back to beat Team White in the Prince Albert Intra-Squad Game on Saturday.
Nathan Gosso and Eric Pearce also scored for Team Green, while Carter Serhyenko and Max Hildebrand combined for combined for 28 saves to get the win. Zachary Wilson, Michael Horon and Kaiden Guhle responded with goals for Team White. Spencer Borsos and Matthew Malin combined to make 26 saves in a losing cause.
Although there was nothing but pride on the line Saturday, players from both teams said they had a lot to prove.
“It was nice to get the win tonight and rub it in a couple of the veterans’ faces,” Pearce joked afterwards.
“Everyone came out with a good effort today, just trying to show the scouts, coaches, (and) general manager that they want to be on this team.”
“We don’t like to lose. Ever. Losing sucks,” said Herman, who had an assist on Guhle’s third period goal. “In PA, we like to win, but I thought the guys competed hard, and yeah, it looked good. It’s too bad we didn’t win. I know it’s training camp, but winning is always more fun than losing.”
Team Green jumped out to an early lead just three minutes into the game on Nathan Gossoo’s goal, with assists to Rhett Marchant and Remy Aquilon. They extended their lead just before the halfway mark, when Pearce scored at 9:32 with Bryce Warnkentine getting the assist.
Team White cut the lead in half thanks to Zachary Wilson’s goal on a pass from Horon with just under five minutes to play.
The two teams traded chances, but not goals in a scoreless second period. Team White tied things up less than a minute into the third when Horon beat his man wide, cut to the net, and sifted a backhand short-side.
Guhle gave Team White the lead on the powerplay, with assists to Herman and Terrell Goldsmith, when his wrist shot found the top left-hand corner.
That goal looked like it was going to be the game winner until Tyson Laventure scored on a goalmouth scramble with 1:04 left in the game.
Overtime solved nothing, nor did the first three rounds of the shootout. Cale Sanders looked to have Team Green ahead for good when he beat Malin low blocker-side, but Team White’s third shooter Harrison Lodewyk tied the game up again with a quick shot over Hildebrand’s glove, sending both teams to a sudden death shootout.
Malin and Hildebrand stopped all shooters until the 10th round, when defenceman Adam McNutt fired a shot over Malin’s glove for the winner.